I'm neck deep in alligators at the moment, wrapping up a play with the high school's drama club. I can't say I really had time to volunteer for this particular job and, not surprisingly, the drama kids are consumed, currently, by their own internal drama, balanced against mid-terms. Stress levels are a bit high.
However, if last night (referring, of course, to that little election we had here in the States) taught us anything, we should all be well aware of the power of communication. How often did even John McCain refer to Barack Obama's gift for public speaking in one form or another? True, he painted him as more of a wordsmith than a worthy president, but most of the pundits agree that his nearly unflappable ability to speak clearly, articulately, and calmly under great pressure certainly reassured a lot of folks on the fence about his experience and leadership abilities.
Did you watch the debates? No matter on which side of the political fence you fall, it's hard to deny that Obama is a genuinely good orator.
All of the money spent, the social networking, the grass roots effort, the economic crisis, and Sarah Palin all helped turn the election in his favor. But as Jennifer Leggio put it, "Obama won the election - not social media".
So I take time off from the technology and just occasionally tweet my frustrations during rehearsals and focus on getting the kids to become communicators. Learning to make yourself heard, to be convincing, and convincing an audience to listen to what you have to say is vitally important, even in social media-land.
In my conversation with George Ou yesterday, he said a few things that struck a chord with me, even if we didn't see completely eye to eye on approach. First and foremost, when I inquired about a job he'd taken recently, he noted that a really solid presentation he made helped close the deal. Very few things make a better impression to potential employers than a confident, knowledgeable speaker.
The second point he made (actually just a passing bit of our conversation) was that his favorite collaboration tool was essentially a shared electronic whiteboard with voice communications. The specific app, of course, is integrated and slick, but keep in mind that the core is still voice. Even tools like Seesmic and Utterli are increasingly allowing voice to be part of the fabric of social media.
If we want to talk about 21st century skills, we simply can't ignore oral communications. There are plenty of tools to facilitate communication, but there simply is no substitute for articulate speech. How many undecided voters were swayed in the final weeks of the election not by Obama's Twitter feed, but by his performance in the debates and by his confidence and passion behind a podium?
So I'm directing a high school play. It's decidedly low-tech, but inseparable from the other skills we need to impart to our students.